Title: Where There's Smoke [11/12+E]
Rating: Fer Errbody
Pairing: Kurt/Blaine, Wes and David friendship, mentions of former Finn/Rachel
Word Count: 10,600/100,000
Warnings: Kurt finally hangs out at the fire station. Guess what happens? (Be prepared, my firefighter daughters, for intense situations)
Summary: Fireman AU, set 7 years after graduation. Kurt is Kurt, except that he never met Blaine Anderson. Blaine grew up in Brooklyn with his mother and firefighter father. Rachel and Kurt have graduated NYADA, Kurt gained a Masters from Tisch, and now they're in their first post-college apartment together ready to tackle their dreams. Unfortunately, Rachel never learned how to properly cook and almost sets their new house on fire. Enter Dreamy McFirepants.
A/N: This wouldn't exist without the most amazing editor a person could ask for, flaming_muse. Any remaining errors fall squarely on
Previous Chapters: [Masterlist + One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five][Six] [Seven] [Eight] [Nine] [Ten]
[And I've been posting links to updates on my Tumblr, if you'd rather find chapters that way. Let's be BFF and share cookie recipes and pics of silly things. *chinfists*]
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Blaine kept futzing with the collar of his shirt, trying to make it lay just right. Kurt playfully brushed his hands away so he could take over the task. “Stop worrying, it's just my dad.”
“Kurt, it's your dad. How could I not worry?”
“Because he's going to love you.” Just like I do. Well, that would be awkward if it was just like I do. “But really, you'll see that my dad would totally fit in with the guys at the station, you'll both get along --”
“Like a house on fire?” Blaine said, a cheeky grin on his face.
“Har har.” Kurt snaked his arms around Blaine's neck, unable to stop the smile taking over his face. Blaine was just so endearing, even when his jokes were so painfully lame. “And where is all of that smug confidence from earlier this morning?”
“What you call smug, I call tired, as I had been on my feet for nine hours while holding 70 pounds of equipment last night.”
“It does wonders for your figure.”
“Har har.” Blaine rested his forehead against Kurt's neck. “It's just...it's your father. You only get to make a first impression once.”
Kurt let out an indelicate snort. “Probably why they're called first impressions? But really, it's just my dad. It'll be fine. I'm sure.”
Blaine's head shot up. “Why do I get the impression that you have no idea what to expect?”
Kurt ran his hands down Blaine's shoulders and arms, then back up again. “Maybe because I've never 'brought someone home to meet the folks' before?”
“Well, friends, yes, but not anyone I was seeing. Why? Have you?”
Blaine gave a dry laugh, “Do you not remember my last big fight with my father? How it was over the thought of me bringing someone home? That was just someone I had dated once or twice; it wasn't someone special.”
Kurt's heart gave a big thump. “My dad isn't going to fight with us. Not unless you start spouting off about Michigan.”
“Buckeyes, right.” Blaine worried his lip with his teeth, lost in thought. “Is he a...big man?”
“He's not Finn's father; quit worrying. Now shut up and kiss me before they get here.”
Blaine didn't need to be asked twice, angling his head almost immediately to deepen the kiss. He kissed Kurt like he thought it might be their last. Kurt couldn't help but be amused at the thought of Blaine being worried about meeting his dad. It was sweet. He also realized that he wasn't worried in the slightest, and Blaine really was the first man he'd ever wanted to introduce to his family. He buried one hand into the back of Blaine's hair, humming little notes of pleasure into Blaine's mouth when Blaine slid his tongue into his mouth.
Two quick knocks on the door as it opened and Carole was calling out, “Kurt, honey? We're here!”
Blaine pulled back and stepped a few feet away from Kurt, blushing to his roots and looking like he just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Kurt shook his head, laughing, and walked over to hug Carole.
He heard his dad on the front stoop, clearing his voice and saying loudly, “Is it all clear?”
“Dad,” Kurt laughed. “Stop it and come meet Blaine.” He tugged his dad's hand to draw him all the way in the house and muttered, “And be nice. He's terrified of you already.”
He would have sworn on his mother's name that he heard an evil chuckle from his sweet, loving father.
“You doing okay, kid?” Burt quietly asked Kurt.
Kurt leaned into his dad, giving him a one-armed hug. “Great, actually.” Kurt smiled over at Blaine, who watched their interaction intently, soaking up every little touch and smile Kurt and his father shared. Oh. He sent a little wink Blaine's way, trying to offer some encouragement.
Burt stopped right in front of Blaine, looking him up and down, his hands shoved into his pockets. “You must be Blaine, huh?”
Blaine swallowed and stuck out a hand and smiled, saying, “Yes, Sir. Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Hummel.”
Kurt noticed that his hair was sticking up in the back a little from Kurt's hand and that Blaine had wiped his hand off on his jeans before offering to shake his dad's hand. Burt looked at Blaine's face as he took his hand. Kurt hoped they weren’t trying to out-squeeze each other.
“Please, call me Burt. Now, we're not taking you away from something important, are we? Kurt tells us you kinda run the show over there at the fire house.”
Kurt beamed at Blaine, trying to emit strength and calmness because he could see how nervous Blaine still was. What happened to my brave, strong hero?
Finn lumbered in with a couple of bags, hollering out, “Hey, where can I put these? I didn't think leaving our stuff in the car would be a smart idea.”
Kurt pointed to his right towards his bedroom. “Just in there, please.”
“Hey! Blaine! How's it going, dude?”
Blaine visibly relaxed at Finn's presence. “Great. It's good to see you again.”
“Oh, that's right, you two met already,” Burt said.
“Yeah, he promised me I could check out the station next time I was in town, right?” Finn slung the bags through the doorway of Kurt's bedroom, causing Kurt to cringe as they skidded and bumped into the foot of his bed.
“Oh, sweetie,” Carole interjected. “Blaine doesn't want to take you to work on his day off, I'm sure.” Kurt laughed to himself, wondering if Carole would ever stop apologizing for Finn's, erm, perpetually childlike behavior.
Carole excused herself to freshen up. Burt asked Blaine for his opinion on the upcoming pre-season football games, giving Kurt an opportunity to slip away and make sure the bags Finn tossed into his room hadn't broken anything. Everything was fine in his room, so he headed back to join the others.
“...don't underestimate the intimidation factor by letting your first stringers out for a little bit, show the other teams what they have to look forward to playing against,” Blaine argued.
Finn shook his head. “Too chancy. You have all of those new guys trying to move up from the bench, and they play hard. They don't pace themselves, and your starters are going to get hurt.”
Burt stood in between the two, his arms crossed in front of him, watching the two intently as Finn listed off injuries from last year that cost one of the divisions. Kurt didn't care about starters getting hurt or whatever they had been talking about, as he had noticed that Blaine's eyes were wide, and that he kept darting glances over at Kurt's dad. And to Kurt, it seemed like Burt was just fine with Blaine being nervous.
“Intimidation factor,” Kurt muttered.
“What's that, Kurt?” Burt asked.
“Oh, nothing, Dad. You know I don't care about football.”
Burt sighed, “Well, you gave it a shot at least when you were on the team back in high school. I hoped that would get you excited for the game, but nothing doing. Just Finn and me on the sofa with a bucket of hot wings.”
“Dad! You're not supposed to eat those!”
Burt chuckled. “Just a couple, and we get them baked, sauce on the side.”
“Don't let anyone here hear you say that; they'll tell you those can't be called hot wings,” Blaine teased.
“Is that right,” Burt said, keeping a straight face.
Kurt knew his dad wasn’t really trying to be intimidating, he was just the kind of man that took space and owned it. He had a dry wit and could be hard to read until people realized how much of a softy he really was at heart. But he was clearly having a good time being the parent that meets the boyfriend for the first time. Kurt rolled his eyes when he noticed the crinkles at the corner of his dad’s eyes.
Someone is enjoying themselves a little too much.
“Well, um, it's just,” Blaine coughed gently, “I'm sure they're delicious, and obviously they're better for you, and--”
“I'm just yanking your chain, son, it's all right.”
Kurt glared at his father, who even winked at Kurt. Carole finally joined them, slipping an arm through Burt's. Kurt tried to take one of Blaine's hands, but Blaine gave a tiny shake of his head and kept his hands jammed into his front pockets.
“Don’t think I’m not on to you, Dad. I know the kind of junk food Finn eats when he watches tv. Are you expecting me to believe you’re not dipping into the artificially manufactured corn oil soaked heart cloggers that Finn calls food?”
“Hey!” Finn cried. “Funyuns are delicious, okay?”
Kurt didn’t even deign to look Finn’s way when he gave a dismissive flick of his hand.
Blaine started all of a sudden, putting a hand on Kurt's arm before pulling it away like he'd been burned. “Wait a minute; you played football?”
Burt frowned slightly, “You didn't know that, huh?”
“No, dad,” Kurt said, rolling his eyes. “I don't usually brag about my glorious career of one high school football game.”
“Hey, you won the game for the team; that's nothing to sneeze at.”
Kurt caught Blaine gaping at him and leaned in affectionately, saying, “Kicker. I only learned how to put the ball through the hoop-thing, I don't know anything else about the sport, so don't get excited.”
“It's not a hoop; it's a goal post,” Finn huffed. “But Blaine, dude, you should have seen him. He could kick a football more than 50 yards, dead center. Every single time.”
“No shi- er, really?” Blaine said, catching himself. “Kurt, that's really impressive.”
Burt gave Kurt’s shoulder an affectionate squeeze. “Well, Kurt's an impressive guy.”
As soon as Burt had made physical contact with Kurt, Blaine leaned away, evidently too scared to be too close to Kurt in his father’s presence.
Kurt wanted to move things along, so he said brightly, “Okay, we've all agreed I'm absolutely amazing, something I could have saved you the trouble of debating by simply reminding you of that fact.”
Burt chuckled a little, giving Kurt a small pat on his back. He fixed his attention back to Blaine. “So. Blaine. Kurt tells me you're the captain over at the station, huh? Pretty tough job you got there. I gotta hand it to you; it takes a certain kind of man to do what you do.”
Blaine cleared his throat a little, standing stiffly. “Well, um, thank you, Mr. Hummel. It helps that I love my job.”
Burt nodded, and said, “I see that Kurt here still looks like he never eats, but your old man could use a bite--” He gave Kurt's shoulder another squeeze. “--so why don't we get this wagon train on the move? Where to, Kurt?”
Kurt stretched and leaned against the front door. “Well, there's Thai.” Burt made a face, eliciting yet another eye roll from Kurt. “Okay, nothing potentially fresh with vegetables and health, right. There's--”
“Hey, can we go to that place with the huge burgers?” Finn interrupted.
“I could go for a burger,” Blaine said, looking a little more animated.
“Oh, dude, they have this one with, like, everything on it, like, everything. Oh, and they have frings.”
Blaine laughed a little, asking, “What?”
Kurt shook his head and opened the door as everyone trooped out. Blaine was getting his ear talked off by Finn about how amazing it was that you didn't have to pick between onion rings and French fries anymore, as if were some kind of Sophie's choice.
Burt and Carole took each side of Kurt as Finn led the way. He couldn't find a house on a map, but Finn could always be counted on to locate a good place to eat. Carole looped her arm through Kurt's, saying quietly, “He's very cute.”
Kurt gave her arm a squeeze. “He is, isn't he?”
“Seems a little too nervous to me, what's that all about?” Burt asked.
Kurt gauged the distance between the guys ahead and where he and his parents were. He slowed down a bit, saying quietly, “Remember what I told you about his father? He wasn't really allowed to be himself. Like, ever. I think he thinks it's going to upset you, or something, if he shows any affection for me. So make him stop thinking that, okay?” Kurt fixed his dad with a significant look.
Burt grunted as he reached under his cap to scratch distractedly at his thinning hair. Finn stood on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, his hands thrown up in the air, impatient for them to hurry up and get to the end of the block. Blaine was behind Finn, hands in his pockets, looking to Kurt as if he was trying to make himself small or invisible.
Kurt walked over to him, looped his hand around Blaine's elbow and gave him a simple kiss on his cheek. Blaine froze next to him as Burt walked up to the pair.
“Come on kid, guy like you has to be hungry.” He pounded a clap to Blaine's shoulder, one of those test your mettle things Kurt would never understand. But he noticed Blaine relaxing, just a smidge. He kept his hand on Blaine's arm as they walked in behind his parents, together.
Burt took over the task of getting everyone a table, Kurt easily slipping back into the days of the early Hudson-Hummel weekly dinners where he and Finn would share a side of the booth, their parents on the other. They were seated in a large circular booth this time, and Burt made a point of ushering Blaine in after Kurt and sitting on the outside next to Blaine.
Kurt was both pleased and worried, happy that his dad was making an effort, but wanting Blaine to be comfortable. After giving the waiter their drink order, he slipped his hand under the table and gave Blaine's knee a squeeze, causing Blaine to jerk like he'd been electrocuted.
“Get a little bee sting there, kid?” Burt chuckled.
Kurt bit his lip, fighting to hold in a laugh as he watched Blaine turn four shades of red. Carole seemed to pick up what was going on and took up the reins of the conversation.
“So, Kurt! We're all excited to see you sing again, it's been too long. Blaine--” She reached behind Kurt to pat his shoulder. “--Kurt mentioned that you used to perform as well. Any chance we might see you on stage eventually?”
“Only if you come with us out for karaoke sometime,” Blaine replied. “I have too much on my plate these days. Besides, Kurt's the one that needs to be on stage. He's amazing.”
He bumped shoulders gently with Kurt, smiling bashfully.
Burt leaned back in his seat, smiling at the two of them. “Well, you won't get any arguments from me on that one; he's always been something special.”
Kurt rolled his eyes, feeling the heat creep into his face. “Okay, dad.”
“He sure is,” Blaine said quietly, giving Kurt's hand a quick squeeze before dropping it back to his lap.
Burt cocked an eyebrow at Kurt, who was helpless to do anything but smile, his happiness at having all of the people he loved the most together in one place and enjoying each others' company was almost overwhelming him.
The waiter brought their meals. Kurt glared at his dad's plate at the reminder that Burt hadn't ordered the veggie burger. Burt noticed the stern look, replying, “Hey, I'm on vacation. I've been good, honest. I just want to splurge a little, that's all.”
Carole patted Kurt's arm. “I've been quite the battle ax; your father will tell you. I even got him to join me at the hospital's gym for Pilates a few times.”
Kurt, shocked beyond belief, slowly turned to look at his dad, who was presently turning a brilliant scarlet.
“Hey, it was kind of nice, all the stretching and stuff? Hurt like the dickens the next day, though.”
Kurt continued to stare at his dad; he knew his mouth was hanging open, but he couldn't get the thought of his dad in workout clothes – probably just cut-off jeans and a short sleeved flannel shirt over a tee – rolling around on a yoga ball.
“What, I’m not allowed to grow and change as a person?”
Kurt almost said something but he felt Blaine shift, pressing his leg against Kurt’s. He glanced over at him and saw a tiny smile flash across Blaine’s face. Hope blossomed inside Kurt; that tiny little doubt that said Blaine wouldn’t like his family, or worse, that his family wouldn’t like Blaine began its death throes.
They all dove into their food, chatting about the different sites Carole wanted to see. Finn talked about about Times Square as if he'd lived there for years, earning a scoff and smirk from Kurt. Blaine mentioned a shop that specialized in 80s gear to Carole after she lamented the lack of acid wash jean skirts in Lima, but how she'd seen some young girls walking around in them here in NYC.
“That's all coming back in style, so you're kind of ahead of the Ohio fashion curve, Mrs. Hummel.”
Carole blushed prettily as she dismissed his comment with a hand wave. “I never did think it should have gone out of style in the first place.”
Burt leaned back on the bench, laying his hand behind Blaine on the back of the seat. Blaine tensed, his back ram-rod straight. Burt gave his shoulder a little squeeze and said quietly, “Ease up, kid, you're doing great.”
Blaine took a long drink from his water. Kurt gave his hand another reassuring squeeze. The waiter turned up with an offer for a dessert menu, which was soundly turned down by everyone, even Finn. Once again he'd cleared his plate and had even sneaked a few bites off his mom's plate.
Burt reached for his wallet after asking for the check when Kurt interrupted. “Oh, no dad, let me; you came all this way.”
“No, now look. Every now and then it's nice to have dinner with you kids like we did when you were still living at home, so let me have my moment, would you?”
Blaine tried to discreetly slip a credit card to the waiter, when Burt caught him at it. “Hey, what did I just say?” He pointed a finger at the waiter. “You bring me the check, not to any of these yahoos, okay?”
Blaine stammered, “Thank you, Mr. Hummel, but--”
“Come on, call me Burt. And you know what? You save your money and take my boy out somewhere nice one of these days, how about that?”
“Oh, I like that idea,” Kurt chirped, nudging Blaine playfully. Finn hopped out of his end, offering his hand to his mom as Burt slid out of his side of the booth. Kurt leaned in and dropped a quick kiss to Blaine's cheek, whispering, “They love you. Really. You can breathe deep.”
Blaine sighed heavily, resting their foreheads together briefly before sliding out of the booth and offering his hand to Kurt. Instead of letting it go once Kurt was at his feet, he tucked it under his arm and followed Kurt's family out onto the street. Carole noticed, gave Kurt a little wink, and hooked her arm through Burt's as Finn led them back to Kurt's home.
Ever since Kurt was little he’d imagined what it would be like to date. Every fairy tale, every Disney movie, every romance ended with happily ever after - that moment when the heroine or hero knew the worst had happened and they were free to love the object of their affection. It was such a silly thing, there were no happily ever afters, but in that brief moment with Blaine holding his hand, his family chattering happily in front of them, he could almost believe they were real.
“So, this isn't too much?” Blaine whispered, slowing down so they wouldn't be overheard.
“What, you holding my arm?” Kurt laughed, leaning into Blaine’s shoulder as they walked home. “Blaine, really. My dad wants me to be happy, and how can he not see how happy you make me?”
Blaine stopped and turned towards Kurt, his eyes closed. “Say that again, please?”
Kurt felt a smile break slowly across his face. He took one of Blaine's hands in his and placed a small kiss on his knuckles. “How can he not see how happy you make me?”
“I love you, you know.”
Everything stopped, the world, his breathing, maybe even his heartbeat. Kurt still felt the buzzing tingle of the pressure from Blaine's knuckles on his lips, Blaine's warm, dry hand in his, but mostly he was aware of the prickling heat behind his eyes and the ache in his chest. His heart had been empty and unloved for so long, and he now knew that Blaine felt the same way. It was pretty overwhelmingly wonderful to hear that those feelings were reciprocated.
“No, I didn't actually,” Kurt exhaled. He cupped Blaine's cheek, lightly running his thumb across Blaine's cheekbone before pressing a soft kiss to Blaine's lips, lingering for a moment before pulling back and laughing softly to himself at how giddy and effervescent he felt. He didn’t want to parrot the words back; he wanted to say them to Blaine in a way so that he would know without question that Kurt meant every word. He also needed a few minutes to simply process the joy that reverberated through his whole being that was centered on the knowledge that Blaine Anderson loved him.
They followed along after the Hudson-Hummels holding hands, exchanging smiles every so often. Yep, it was a turning out to be a pretty good summer for Kurt Hummel.
After a short spell of visiting and getting comfortable with everyone – Kurt was happy that Blaine hadn't let go of his hand yet – Blaine reminded Kurt that he had to head out to get to the station. He had picked up the late half of a co-worker's shift in order to be off for Kurt's opening night.
“Would you like me to make you some coffee before you go?” Carole stood in Kurt's small kitchen, turning this way and that, trying to figure out where the coffee canister would be.
Blaine smiled. “No, but thank you. We always keep coffee brewed at the station, no sense to go to all the trouble here.”
Burt stood up and followed Kurt and Blaine to the front door. “You know, I’m new to all of this ‘meeting the significant other’ stuff -- is that what I call it? I don’t want to be offensive.”
Burt looked questioningly at Kurt, who couldn’t help but laugh. “That’s fine, dad.” Kurt inhaled sharply at the affectionate squeeze Blaine gave his hand.
Burt continued, “So I guess we’ll just have to figure this out together, huh?” He held his hand out for Blaine. “Good meeting you, finally. We're seeing you tomorrow for the show, right?”
Blaine shook his hand, and Kurt noticed that the tension Blaine had carried around all night was gone from his shoulders. Kurt surmised that he’d finally realized that Burt wasn't just being polite.
With a sincere smile, Blaine said, “It was good to meet you, too. And I can either meet you all at the ticket booth, or at your hotel and take the subway over? Whatever you'd prefer.”
Burt looked over at Carole for guidance. She came to the door as well, saying, “Let's meet at the ticket booth; I want to feel like a real New Yorker and try to figure out the subway without help.”
Kurt made a mental note to write down explicit instructions for them, including how to avoid the more...colorful element that sometimes rode the train at that time of day and slip that to his father. Blaine held out his hand for Carole, who rolled her eyes and pulled him into a tight hug, patting his back.
“You be careful out there tonight, okay?” she murmured against his shoulder.
“Um, yes ma'am. I always am.”
“Later, dude.” Finn clapped Blaine's hand, tugging him for a one-handed pound on the back. Kurt made a mental note to tell Finn to not beat up his boyfriend next time. He made a second mental note to say that Blaine was his boyfriend out loud, just for the pleasure of hearing it.
“Okay, okay, let's give these two lovebirds some privacy.” Burt and Carole retreated to the kitchen, to which Kurt was grateful. Kurt heard his dad ask Carole, “That offer for coffee still stand?”
As Kurt's parents made their way back to the kitchen, the two of them both slipped out onto the stoop, Blaine landing a step below Kurt on the top landing. He pressed his face into Kurt's chest.
Kurt wrapped his arms over Blaine’s shoulders. “See? I told you they wouldn’t bite. They really like you.”
Blaine leaned back, looking up into Kurt’s face as a soft smile spread across his face. “I...really like them, too. You were right: your dad would definitely fit in with the guys at the station.”
Laughter seemed ready to bubble over inside Kurt at any moment. He just felt...relieved. And, he quickly realized, complete. “Thank you.”
Blaine kissed the front of Kurt’s shirt over his heart. “For what?”
“For this. Tonight. For meeting my family and not running off screaming in horror.”
Blaine buried his face in Kurt’s shirt again, chuckling. “They’re...really great. And it’s nice seeing how you all are with each other. It’s what a family is supposed to be.”
“Oh, Blaine...” Kurt laid his cheek on the top of Blaine’s head. “You know, we weren’t always like this.”
Blaine tightened his arms around Kurt’s body. “I have a feeling you and your dad have always been like that. It’s...I’m just happy you have that.”
“I’m happy I have you.”
Blaine was quiet for a moment, his hands rubbing soothing circles at Kurt’s back. “I meant it; I hope you know that.”
Kurt ran his fingers through Blaine's hair, tugging at his nape to get him to look up at him. “I know you did.”
Blaine closed his eyes, smiling, and kissed the center of Kurt's chest again.
“Are you going to be late?”
“Being the boss has its privileges,” Blaine smirked, pulling Kurt down to his step so they could kiss more easily. Kurt clutched at Blaine's shirt, holding him close (and knowing Blaine would be changing into his uniform, so wrinkles weren't a problem) and pressed feather light kisses all over Blaine's cheeks, neck and lips before breaking it off with a sigh.
“Have a good shift.”
Blaine backed up, smiling. He stopped and looked up at Kurt. “I'll see you tomorrow. Break a leg.”
“Thank you.” Kurt rocked from side to side, his arms wrapped around himself to hold himself together; there was a good possibility he might fly apart from the happiness swelling inside him. ”Blaine?”
“I love you, too.”
Blaine went still, his eyes closed. When he opened them, he laid his hand on his heart and said softly, “It’s yours.” He walked the few steps back to Kurt, cupping his face gently and pressing a sweet kiss against his lips.
Complete. That’s what this is. The kiss, while chaste, meant something new. It was as if they were making an agreement, a decision that from this point forward, it would be them together. Kurt didn’t want to tiptoe around Blaine’s life, he wanted it to become their life. Their shared moments, their shared setbacks and triumphs. But it would be the two of them facing it all together. He realized that he wasn’t alone anymore, wouldn’t be alone again. He had someone, and that someone had him in equal measure.
Kurt hadn’t realized that he had tears in his eyes until Blaine kissed the corner of each one. They held on to each other for a moment before Kurt squeezed Blaine fiercely, loathe to let him go, but recognizing that he had to. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Blaine continued walking backwards, smiling back at him before hanging his head and laughing a little. Kurt held on to the support brace for the upstairs balcony and watched as Blaine walked off to the station house, turning around and blowing him a kiss every so often until he was out of sight.
I think he’s going to like my song choice, then. Kurt heaved a sigh of relief, excited and nervous for tomorrow’s performance, especially his finale. Instead of wishful thinking for one day, the song would allow him to joyfully express what his life had become.
Even though a small part of him ached for Blaine to come back, to spend the rest of the evening with him in his arms, he still felt whole. He had a future of tomorrows with Blaine to look forward to. He went back in the house where his dad was sitting on the sofa, arms crossed behind his head, and a knowing grin plastered on his face.
“Yeah, you got it pretty bad, huh?”
Kurt sagged against the door frame, smiling and feeling a little dreamy, half of his thoughts still with Blaine outside.
Burt chuckled and took Carole's hand. “Told you you'd know when it was right, didn't I?”
Kurt walked over to his dad and planted a kiss on the top of his head. “You're a genius.”
Carole patted an empty space next to her on the sofa; Kurt happily sat with her.
“Well? What did you think about him?” Kurt asked.
Carole bumped shoulders affectionately with Kurt. “I think he's lovely. Wound a little tight, but he'll get used to us, I'm sure.”
“He's really cool.” Finn gave a sideways smile, nodding his head. “He's, like, a guy, you know? I like him.”
Kurt stared blankly at Finn for a minute. “Um, of course he's a guy. That's kind of my type?”
“No, no, I mean, he's like a dude, he's a guy.”
“Finn, are you sniffing antifreeze at the shop? I'm a guy.”
“No, you're not,” Finn laughed. He put his hands up in a defensive move when he saw the look of anger flash across Kurt's face. “I mean, you're not into football, you don't like getting your hands covered in Doritos cheese—”
“Of course not, that's disgusting.”
“--and Blaine would totally eat Meat Lovers pizza and watch Transformers with me, you know?”
“I think what you're trying to say to me--and failing miserably, I might add, and we'll have a conversation about stereotypes and passing at another time--you're trying to say that you like Blaine and he'd be fun to spend time with?”
“Here's a bit of advice: just say that next time.”
Finn muttered to himself, “I thought I did?” as he grabbed a magazine to hide behind.
Kurt rolled his eyes, smiling when he felt Carole's reassuring pat on his arm. He was happy Carole and Finn liked Blaine, of course, but he still hadn't heard from the person who’s approval was the most important to him.
Burt rubbed his head, looking like he was about to choose his words carefully. “Well, he seemed all right; he was a little twitchy there for a bit, but...”
“He's likable. What do you want me to say, I hardly know the guy.” Burt rubbed his face before looking at Kurt, his face softening into something less teasing, not so hard on the edges. “Okay. I like how he was kind to us; he was thoughtful, like that little thing about the store for Carole. That was nice. Those little details tell you a lot about a person.”
Kurt took a deep breath, and slowly let it out.
Burt continued. “I can tell by the way you look at him that he's more than likable, though. So what's that all about?
Kurt felt Carole put her arm around him, but he only had eyes for his dad. They'd always been honest with each other, and they never held back, good or bad. “Dad, I love him.”
Burt sagged back into the chair. “Seems kinda fast, Kurt.”
“I believe someone told me that they knew they were in love with one Carole Hudson within the first five minutes of meeting her.”
“Oh, Burt!” Carole cried out, pressing the flat of one hand against her breast.
“Well,” Burt laughed, “you got me there.” He smiled adoringly at his wife, holding her gaze for a moment before turning back to Kurt, that look of love still there but in a way only meant for his son. “But if he breaks your heart, I'm taking a tire iron to his kneecaps.”
“I'm just kidding, come on.” Burt smiled at him. It was a smile that reminded Kurt of every time his dad had told him that he had made something that was beautiful, every time he had said that he was proud of Kurt, every time he had given Kurt a hug. “I'm real happy for you, Kurt, I am.”
“I'm real happy for me, too.” Incredibly happy.
They chattered for a while before they drove off in Finn's car to their boutique hotel on Smith Street with promises to meet for brunch the next day. Kurt slipped into his pajamas, took care of his nightly routine, and settled into bed, grabbing the pillow he'd absconded with from Blaine's house, burying his face in the familiar scent of Blaine's shampoo and his natural smell.
I love you, you know.
“I love you, too,” he whispered into the pillowcase.
The next day, Kurt met up with his family at the small hotel on Smith Street only to find his step-brother and dad waiting; there was no sign of his step-mother.
“I set Carole up with one of those massage things up in the room. She should be down any minute.”
Kurt beamed at his dad, who looked sheepish but pleased.
“Well, she works so hard... Just keeping up with the two of us is work enough, some days.”
Finn yawned hugely then rubbed his stomach. “Dude, I am starving. I hope we’re not going to some frilly place with tiny portions, or something.”
Burt asked, “I thought you had breakfast down here an hour ago?”
“Well, yeah, but it was just that continent stuff, where it’s, you know, toast and a banana. I need actual food.”
Kurt shook his head in amazement. He had almost ten years to get used to the quantities of food that Finn packed into his body on a daily basis and still hadn’t managed it. He leaned over and poked Finn in the side. Nope, still tight as a drum. So unfair.
“Hey!” Finn hollered, grabbing his side as Kurt laughed.
Carole joined them, looking loose and relaxed. Kurt was happy to see that she was wearing the lavender Eileen Fischer dress with an asymmetrical neckline that he had sent her for her birthday (sample sale, and he’d almost elbowed a personal shopper in the face when she tried to grab it from his hands.) And then he saw her shoes.
“Oh, Carole, why are you wearing your sneakers?”
Carole looked shocked at Kurt’s dismay. “But...I thought that’s what ladies here did? You know, like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl?”
“I liked that movie; it had Harrison Ford in it.” Burt said.
Kurt sighed, “You’re not helping, Dad. Carole?” He turned to her and held her shoulders gently in his hands. “First off, you’re modeling yourself after a low-rent secretary that had claw bangs. Two--” Kurt held one hand up, shushing her when he saw she was going to say that big bangs would be coming back. “--that movie came out in 1988, and there was nothing fashionable that remains from 1988. Well,” he considered, “maybe shoulder pads.”
Carole pouted, looking a little lost.
“Did you pack those silver flats I sent you?” Kurt asked.
“We will patiently wait here for you while you run upstairs to change into them. And I will personally see to it that at the first sign of distress, I’ll hail you a cab.”
Burt and Finn had melted into their respective chairs there in the lobby. They had been trained to never go against Kurt when he was pointing out a fashion misstep. Carole walked swiftly to the elevator; Kurt glanced over at the check-in desk. The man behind the counter gave Kurt a knowing look and shook his head, amused.
Carole came back quickly, and Kurt pulled her into his arms, giving her a tight squeeze. “Now you look elegant, chic, and very New York.”
She touched her hair softly as she began to smile. “Really?”
He kissed her cheek and smiled back. “Really. Now, let’s go eat.”
“Thank god,” Finn moaned.
Sketcher Shape Ups with a three hundred dollar dress. Only Ohio. Kurt shared another “Can you believe what I have to put up with?” look with the concierge and followed his family out onto the street.
One thing that was great about being a New Yorker was getting the opportunity to show off all of the amazing things the city had to offer to visitors, and seeing them enjoy it, as well. The Hudson-Hummels left Ted & Honey, all with full bellies and smiles on their faces, to walk around the nearby park for a stretch.
“That bread...it was like magic, Kurt,” Finn moaned. “I don’t know what it was, but I want to eat that stuffed French toast every day of my life.”
“Well, you’ll finally lose your abs if you did,” Kurt replied.
Burt sat heavily on a bench, tugging lightly on Carole’s hand to nestle her beside him as he sighed. A few children and their mothers (this wasn’t Central Park, or even Park Slope - it could be counted on for these to be mothers and not nannies) played hopscotch on the sidewalk inside the small park. “This is real nice, Kurt. I didn’t think it would be green like it is. Well, you know what I mean. Green for the middle of a city.”
Kurt sat back on an adjacent bench under a linden tree, looking out at the neighborhood. “We were lucky, Rachel and I. Finding an available house in this neighborhood usually requires voodoo and human sacrifice.”
“Well,” Burt continued, “I don’t know about any of that, but it seems like this really is the place for you. We miss you, of course, and we’ll always have your room ready for you, but--”
“Dad!” Kurt laughed. “I think it’s safe by now to turn the room into a man cave, or whatever you’d like. I’m pretty happy here. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
Finn sat down next to Kurt, his elbows resting on his knees. “Yeah, but....”
Kurt pushed his sunglasses onto the top of his head to look at his brother. “But?”
“I don’t know, it’s...it’s not for me. Like, I really, really get that, now. I think I’d like visiting New York way more than I’d ever like living here.”
Kurt gave Finn his full attention; Finn seemed to be coming to an important thought.
“Why’s that, honey?” Carole asked, pulling Burt’s hand into her lap.
Finn looked around for a few moments, biting his lip. “It’s... and don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy for you, Kurt.”
“No,” Kurt said softly, “go ahead.”
“It’s too busy. I’d feel like I was always late, or something. Like, there’s so much going on all the time. I don’t think I could ever relax here. I mean, look at the trees; why are there cages around the bottoms of some of the trees? And there are like, signs everywhere saying no dogs can pee on them, what are they supposed to pee on?” Finn twisted his hands, chancing a glance at Kurt.
“It’s not for everyone,” Kurt agreed. “And honestly, I think a part of me would be sad to see you here. You belong back home. You make it better there, Finn.”
Finn sat up, turning on the bench to look into Kurt’s face.
“Finn, you and I have known each other a long time. You’ve changed a lot, and in good ways. I’m really proud of you.” Kurt smiled at Finn, who gave his usual tiny, sideways smile back. “I think that you being there, you being the enlightened person you’ve become--” Kurt patted Finn on the leg. “--you make Ohio a better place.”
They both turned at the sound of Carole sniffling.
“I’m so proud of you boys,” Carole said, fumbling in her purse for a tissue.
“Yeah, well save the waterworks for tonight, Carole; you don’t want to cry yourself dry,” Burt laughed.
“Oh, you.” Carole pushed at Burt’s shoulder before laying her head on his shoulder.
“I’m proud of you, too, Kurt,” Finn said quietly. “I think it’s pretty awesome that you have this thing tonight. And it’s cool that you get to be yourself here. I mean, you have a boyfriend. That’s...” Finn slung an arm around Kurt’s shoulder and gave him a firm squeeze. “That’s so cool. You get to be you, but like, all the time now.”
Kurt was not going to cry in a public park in his neighborhood in the middle of the day. He didn’t need his eyes red and puffy before his performance, that was for sure. He cleared his throat and bumped Finn’s shoulder with his own. “Thank you.”
They all sat in companionable silence for a few moments, watching two little girls try to make it down their crudely drawn hopscotch board without stepping on the square with the rock. Kurt looked over at his parents, his heart swelling with happiness for the both of them. Burt had his arm around Carole looking as content and happy as ever. Kurt flashed to a scenario years down the road with he and Blaine sitting on a bench, maybe even with children of their own. He swallowed the lump in his throat, because he was not going to cry in public, in his neighborhood. He did put his sunglasses back on, just in case.
Carole had pulled out her Zagat’s guide book; one page was dog-eared. She showed the page to Kurt, asking, “Kurt, what if we picked up a little something from this place - Zagat’s gives it a high rating - and take it over to Blaine and his crew? Is that something that’s allowed?”
Kurt smiled indulgently at her. “Not only is it allowed, it’s encouraged. Those men can out-eat Finn any day of the week.”
Kurt felt Finn stiffen next to him, almost thinking he’d been offended. He quickly realized it was due to something else. “Finn. I’m sure they’ll let you play with their toys if they’re not busy and you ask nicely.”
“Really?” Finn asked, trying to contain his excitement. “I mean, that’s cool, you know. Whatever.”
Armed with a few dozen croissants and a bag of Cafe Pedlar’s brie pretzels just for Blaine, they walked the few blocks to the fire station. Kurt kept an eye out on Carole, to make sure her flats weren’t giving her any trouble; suburbanites didn’t always make the translation to city walking with ease, but she seemed to be doing just fine.
Kurt checked the time on his phone; Blaine’s shift would be over soon. He’d probably go straight home and sleep before meeting everyone later that night. Perfect time for a pick-me-up snack, then. Kurt led everyone into the station, waving hello at some of the different men working on the rigs.
Kurt spotted Bill and a probie rolling up a hose at the back of one of the trucks. Bill grinned and waved him over.
“Hey, Kurt. And who’s this?”
“Bill, this is my brother, Finn, my mother Carole, and my dad, Burt. Guys? This is Bill; he’s the Chief.” He gave a significant look to his dad, hoping he picked up on the importance of making nice with this particular someone. Burt rolled his eyes at Kurt, stepping forward to shake hands.
“Burt Hummel. Good to meet you, Chief. Hope we’re not in the way here. The Mrs. thought you fellas could use a bite to eat. I thought it was the least we could do for you all.”
Bill’s handlebar mustache twitched with his grin. “Well, we certainly appreciate that. Ma’am.” He nodded at Carole.
“Uh...Chief, I don’t mean to overstep my place here, but did you realize that you’ve got some chunking on those back tires?” Burt reached for the tire pressure gauge he always kept in his front pocket, clipped in like a ball point pen, evidently forgetting that he wasn’t back at his shop.
Bill chewed on the end of his handlebar mustache, thinking. I don’t care how special he is to Blaine, I am going to slip in his office when he’s sleeping and cut those whiskers off one of these days.
Kurt and Carole exchanged a shared glance. Here he goes again. Burt was down on one knee with a borrowed gauge, getting a reading off the back tire of one of the big engines.
“See, you’re running these low, and they need to be up around 130 psi. I’d go up to 135 in winter, if I was you. Now, I gotta guy that can...”
Finn moved to hover behind Burt, watching the exchange intently. Carole held up the box, a quizzical expression on her face.
Kurt nodded. “Oh, right through that door past all of the coats on those pegs; it’s where their kitchen is. Want me to show you?”
Carole waved him off, “I can do it, I’m a big girl.” She tipped him a wink and headed off with the treats. Kurt had a flash of her patting everyone’s head, checking to see if they were eating and sleeping enough, and sassing some of the more stubborn crew members into eating a sandwich before taking nap.
Kurt turned back to the men where Finn was pointing out a few bald spots on the back tires. “You guys stand on the back, right?”
Bill, his arms across his chest, nodded. “Yep, usually two, but bigger calls? We’ll have three back here, one in the cage and the chauffeur.”
Finn rubbed his head, and Kurt was startled to see that it mirrored Burt’s very same under the cap head scratch. He had a feeling of homesickness and love for his family so strong it almost knocked him to his knees.
Finn said, “Three guys, that’s like six hundred extra pounds back here.” He turned to look at Burt. “What do you think, Michelin heavyweights?”
Burt rubbed his chin, his feet spread apart and arms crossed at his chest. “Good call. Chief?” He turned his full attention back to Bill. “These babies should last you ten years. Anything less and someone’s taking you for a ride.”
Carole slipped her arm through Kurt’s, whispering, “Has he finished making his pitch?”
Kurt laughed and gave her arm a chummy squeeze. “He just did, and I don’t think Bill knew what hit him. Does he ever take a break?”
Carole patted his hand before pulling her arm free, “Nope. He says it keeps him young. Burt?” She walked over to her husband and put an arm around his waist, tugging him a little to remind him that he was on vacation.
Burt chuckled a little. “That’s wife code for shut the hell up,” he said to Bill.
“I got one of those myself; couldn’t imagine the mess I’d be without her,” Bill replied.
Kurt could hear Blaine’s voice upstairs echoing from his open office door. Bill glanced up at the loft along the back of the station and nodded with his chin. “Captain, some nice folks here to see you.”
Blaine leaned over the railing, his phone pressed to his chest. “Hey! Come on up, I’m just wrapping this up.”
Bill pointed a finger at Burt and then at Finn. “Make sure I get the number to your friend before you leave, and thanks for the tip.”
Kurt positively beamed at his dad. Bill was essentially a substitute for Blaine’s father, so the ‘parents meeting each other for the first time’ seemed to have gone off quite well. Not that he was imagining it was a potential in-law scenario. It was far too soon for that. Besides, he hadn’t even narrowed down what font he would use for invitations, let alone a color scheme for the parents of the grooms. Bill would make it challenging to determine if ecru, bone, or linen would be the best choices, what with all of that grey hair. Maybe with a navy accent?
It was just nice that everyone got along. That was all. I really can’t see Bill in tails, either. Hmm...
Kurt led everyone to the back staircase and up to Blaine’s office. He held the bag behind his back as Blaine said his goodbyes to whomever was on the other end of the call. Burt planted himself in front of a row of framed photographs of older fire engines as Finn darted curious glances at the brass pole across from the open doorway.
Carole was the first to hug Blaine once he set his phone down on his desk, grabbing him up in a tight hug. Blaine laughed over her shoulder, pinking a little and sending Kurt an almost panicked look. Kurt, smiling, shrugged dismissively. Carole was never afraid to express herself, that was one of the best things about her. It was almost as if she had tried to provide for Finn the love of his deceased father as well as her own, and it just stuck.
Blaine eventually pulled away and smiled at Carole, saying, “You look lovely. You should always wear that color.”
Carole batted his arm, pleased, but not as pleased as Kurt. It was a common misconception that just because a man was gay, he instinctively knew what colors worked, what style certain people should wear, and so on, but Kurt knew that wasn’t always the case. One boy in particular from his Stage Dialect class wore the most unflattering color of yellow, and with tan cargo pants, no less. So.
Kurt held out the paper bag that he’d been hiding, making sure the bakery logo was apparent. He wiggled it a little, humming with pleasure at the excited look on Blaine’s face as he realized what Kurt was holding.
“Are they the--”
“With brie,” Kurt replied, nodding. “Two of them, but save one for later.”
Blaine took the bag with one hand, and tugged Kurt close with the other, kissing him on the cheek. He immediately blushed, presumably because Kurt’s family was standing there watching, as he tried to step away from Kurt. Kurt bumped his hip into Blaine’s, not letting go of his hand.
“They’re not bothered by it, Blaine, really,” he whispered, returning the kiss to Blaine’s cheek, his stubble leaving a tingle on Kurt’s lips.
“How you doing, kid? No trouble, huh?” Burt stuck his hand out, giving Blaine a brief yet firm shake.
“Dad, you don’t say that! You’ll jinx them!”
Blaine crossed his arms across his chest, smiling at them all fondly. “I was only teasing about that, Kurt.”
Finn pushed away from the railing to give Blaine a greeting as well. Kurt happily stood back, watching them all interact--smiling, a little nervousness (on Blaine’s part,) but easily talking with each other. He couldn’t imagine dating someone that his family wouldn’t like. Most likely he wouldn’t like someone that his family wouldn’t like, come to think of it.
Kurt could see Christmases, Thanksgivings, times when they would all be together, relaxed and happy. Mm. Definitely complete. The missing Alexander McQueen metal-toed boot to match mine. Oh, note to self, ask Emily if she’s gotten the new line of McQueen’s zip-front boots. He snapped back to the conversation in front of him when he realized that Blaine was trying to convince Finn that it would be okay for him to slide down the pole.
“You’re not the first person that’s visited who wanted to do it, you know,” Blaine said.
Finn had his hands jammed deep into his front pockets; Kurt never got over how funny he found it when Finn tried to make his huge frame appear small.
“Yeah, well--” Finn stammered. “--you guys are working and all, I’d just be in the way.”
Carole smoothed the shoulder of Blaine’s tee--Kurt loved seeing him nervously blush at all of her motherly affection--and said, “Oh, honey, we don’t mean to keep you. Kurt and I just wanted to make sure you boys were being fed.”
Blaine hung his head, chuckling. “It was very considerate of you both, thank you.” Blaine looked over at Kurt, seemed to hesitate for a minute, then leaned over to kiss Kurt on the corner of his mouth. Kurt was fairly certain that his face wasn’t as red as Blaine’s. He reached over and gave Blaine’s hand a squeeze.
“See? The roof didn’t cave in. Told you they wouldn’t mind,” Kurt said quietly.
Kurt leaned over and whispered to Finn as he nodded towards the pole, “No one had a problem with me when I did it.” He covered his mouth with one hand to keep from laughing at the shocked expression on Finn’s face.
“Whoa, but, like, didn’t it mess up your clothes and stuff? Dude,” Finn said to Blaine, his face the picture of seriousness, “you got Kurt to go down this? Um, so it really would be okay if I did?”
“My god, Finn, just slide down the damn pole,” Kurt huffed.
Finn was frozen in place as everyone focused their attention on him. His hand twitched by his side, as if he was going to reach out and grab the pole but then seemed to think better of it. “N-no, I’m good. It’s cool.”
Kurt rolled his eyes, then turned to Blaine, giving his arm a squeeze. “We’ll get out of your hair; I know you need to get back to work.”
Burt reached out to shake Blaine’s hand as Carole leaned in to give him a side squeeze and a peck on the cheek, trapping him between the two. He looked up at Kurt, befuddled. Kurt covered his laugh with his fist, loving the nervous but pleased look on Blaine’s face as his family welcomed him into theirs.
Finn finally gave in and reached out, touching his fingertip to the pole and sighing. He held out a fist to bump, saying, “Later, dude,” as Blaine repeated the gesture. Boys. Blaine ran his hand down Kurt’s arm, giving his hand a little tug before kissing him on the lips, his face ablaze.
“Well, aren’t you making strides today!” Kurt said before kissing him back.
“Mm. I’m a quick learner. Mr. Hummel? Mrs. Hummel? Good to see you again!”
As Burt grabbed the stair’s handrail, saying back, “Burt, I told you, call me--” the lights in the ceiling started flashing and two bells sounded. Over the loudspeaker, dispatch calling out, “Engine Company 204 requested for Code 10-74...”
Kurt startled, then shifted his weight back on one leg to give Blaine’s hand a final squeeze before dropping it. Still sounding a little breathless, he asked, “Gotta go to work?”
Flashing him a bright grin, Blaine said, “I’ll be back before you know it.” He leaned in to give Kurt a quick peck on the cheek, tossed the small paper bag right onto the center of his desk, then made his way to the brass pole. “I’ll text when I’m back.” Before sliding down, he locked eyes with Kurt, his expression soft and tender. “Love you.”
Blaine grabbed the pole, wrapped his leg and was down on the first floor in a flash. Kurt moved to the railing to look down below as Finn moved to stand beside him, muttering “cool” and “awesome” as he watched the unit jump into their gear and load up on the water truck. Kurt’s heart had definitely picked up speed, but he didn’t feel as frightened as he had the last time the crew had been toned out when he was visiting. Blaine had gone out on multiple calls over the past few weeks, but most importantly, he had come back.
Kurt, his pride in Blaine and his men tinged with a little nervousness, watched as Blaine swung up on the side of the vehicle. Blaine looked back at the Hudson-Hummels, giving everyone a friendly wave. Kurt mouthed “I love you” as he pulled away, smiling.
Exhaling sharply to dump the last bit of anxiety from the sirens and lights, Kurt glanced at the big clock down in the garage; less than two minutes, they were fast today. Hopefully they’ll also be fast out there so Blaine doesn’t miss tonight. Kurt turned around, leaning back on the railing to see his dad, still on the top step of the stairs with his eyes wide as saucers and Carole pressed against the wall, her hand clutching at the front of her dress.
“Hey, it’s okay!” He moved to pat Carole, anything to make her not look so frightened.
Burt slumped in the doorway. “That doesn’t bother you? Freak you out a little?”
Kurt blinked. “Well, it did. Does, but not--. They had a horrible fire the first time I came here for dinner, but they all came back. They only sent one truck out this time, so it must not be something major, just support for another team.” He smiled at everyone, his face falling as he saw they were gawping at him, still. “Really, it’s just the job. He’ll be fine.” Kurt mind flashed on the burnished brass plaque by Blaine’s front door, the memory of the cool metal against his fingers. He had picked up the habit over the past month of touching it as they left Blaine’s apartment.
“Dad, I’m just following your advice. It’s like you said; I’m not running from trouble.”
Burt regarded him for a moment, and Kurt had a flash of instinct where he realized that he just fully became an adult in his father’s eyes.
“Dude. That was awesome!”
Finn had finally rediscovered the power of speech, it seemed. Kurt gave Carole a squeeze as she settled down. Kurt waved them all back to the stairs; he still had to get ready for the big night and needed his entire afternoon. As they walked down, he realized Finn wasn’t with them. He looked back and saw Finn staring determinedly at the brass pole.
“Go ahead; no one’s here.”
Kurt rounded rounded the corner on the stair case just in time to catch the sight of Finn, his face exuberant, sliding down to the ground floor.
“Well? Was it everything you dreamed it would be?”
Finn laughed, his face bright and open. “Yeah! I mean, it could be longer, that would be even more awesome...”
As they walked out of the station, Kurt noticed that the normal feeling he had when the four of them were together, that warm and secure feeling of them as a family, felt off. He realized that it was because there was one person missing. Kurt smiled to himself and placed a hand over his heart. He told himself that Blaine was good at what he did, that his crew was good at what they did. He put his trust in their ability and believed he’d come back.